MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Are There No Snakes In Ireland?

With the arrival of another St. Patrick’s Day, let’s investigate one of the all-time biggest bits of lore surrounding the Emerald Isle: why are there no snakes in Ireland?

Legend says St. Patrick used the power of his faith to drive all of Ireland’s snakes into the sea…which would’ve been impressive image, if it had happened. But sadly, there’s no way that it could have. Because there never were any snakes in Ireland, partly for the same reason that there are no native snakes in Hawaii, Iceland, New Zealand, Greenland, or Antarctica. Because Ireland is, well, an island.

Once upon a time, Ireland was connected to a larger landmass. But that was during an ice age that kept the land far too chilly for cold-blooded reptiles. As the last ice age ended around 10,000 years ago, glaciers melted, which poured even more cold water into the impassable expanse between Ireland & its neighbors. Other animals, like wild boars, lynx, and brown bears, all managed to make it across, as did one lone reptile: the common lizard. Snakes, however, missed their chance.

Ireland’s reputation as a serpent-free haven has, strangely enough, turned snake ownership there into a status symbol. There have been numerous reports of large pet snakes escaping or being released. But as of yet, no species has managed to take hold in the wild. And that, in & of itself, is actually a small miracle.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me an email:  [email protected].

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